Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Effective teacher plan

PG article about the effective teacher plan; the superintendent states that Pittsburgh's plan "is designed to change the profession of teaching."



Kathy Fine said...

FYI, A Plus Schools is holding the second of 3 meetings to review their findings from the principal surveys that they did in October, 2009. I attended the first and it was very interesting (am trying to summarize and post here...where does all the time go?). It is worth attending.

Thursday, March 11th: 5:30-8:00
Pittsburgh Langley
2940 Sheraden Blvd. 15204

Anonymous said...

Teachers are the national Skape Goat, They are many more factors, this is the cheapest fix, some teachers should be fired I agree, but not whole schools of teachers/ Rhode Island.

Bad Teachers Should Be Fired was on the cover of news week.

What about bad Bankers and CEO's they got bonuses after this Huge Bail Out, With the money we have spent in Iraq we could have Built new schools across the nation. Why are Suburban Schools suceeding and Urban Schools failing.

Its a hell of a lot more than effective teaching

I Kill my self for the kids, not coporate America.

Hey Mr. Gates, give me a new computer for my class room, mine is 10 years old & constanly breaks down, give me a ELMO, And a Smart Board.

And modern computer labs for my students some of ours are up to 14 years old.

Hire More Techs, it takes up to 6 weeks to get your computer fixed if you are a teacher in this district.

Save your plan and just give me & my students the tools to equal the playing field. I can teach! I was born to teach. You and the rest of corporate America can leave me the Hell alone.

Sorry for venting, run down by the media, and every one else, but my students and their parents.


Questioner said...

Most parents would not know about problems with getting tech help, or even the age of computer labs. Do Board members know? Who's watching out for issues like this?

And why are more urban schools than suburban schools failing? Is it because teachers need to be much more "effective" in urban schools? If so, are we making it clear that the issue is not that urban teachers are worse, but that they need to be "super teachers" to compensate for other factors? Maybe our program should be called "super effective teacher training."

Anonymous said...

The Age of the computer depends on many factors, one is location. 11-12 years ago the eastern schools got computers. I think we were put on hold. I do not think district administration cares. Roosevelt cut IT people & techs 2 years ago.

Lopez, he boggles the mind, he is a completely clueless. No wonder he could not pass the bar exam.

I am a work aholic, that does care, probably to much. I did not go into education to not be in the classrooms on the front lines like my administrators, The Ivory Tower idiots or the Joke of a Union I belong to. I am a Teacher, who's a little snobish because I did not go to state teachers school, I have a degree in my content field from a private liberal arts school.

I was way more effective before the core crap. Before Roosevelt I didn't feel burned out to late may, Now I feel it in October.

Not so angry today, thanks for making me laugh, I got to put my child in the bath and grade papers.

Anonymous said...

I am getting more and more concerned about teachers who are posting on this blog, who have spelling and grammatical errors. I understand an occasional misspelled word, here and there due to careless typing, but grammatical errors are inexcusable- especially from one who looks down on state schools.

Anonymous said...

Hey Grammar Snob, think, maybe I trying to hide what I teach. Most of my friends are from the state system, but my problem is that they are lazy, they do not read, listen or question, they are lambs being led to the slaughter

so Kiss my

This is a Blog, not a term paper

Back to Angy

Check the requirements between state schools and private liberal arts schools while I was writting 30-35 page papers you were doing 10 page papers, go correct my grammar

Anonymous said...

I think that the level of patience among teachers who occasionally come to this site has run thin. It's pretty apparent that the level of empathy teachers get from the general public is negligible, at best. To many who stop here, it's a good bet that teachers are overpaid. They work 9 months, at six hours a day.

If there is a more disrespected profession in this country, please name it.

It's funny to me that some here would want us to apologize for going to school for six years and for earning a paycheck. It's funny that the average Joe here would take pot shots at us. I'll tell you what: see if you can last a week doing what we do.
I think it's hilarious that some here want to moderate in that which there can be no middle ground. Let's say this again so you can understand:

-Teachers are being targeted by principals who have been told by administration to fill a quota of "ineffective teachers" (even if in reality, there are none)
-Teachers are being put on "improvement plans" and visited in bombardment fashion
-Teachers are being fired

What part of this don't you understand? Administration has sold its collective souls for $40 million. Let's show the Gates people that we are looking for ineffective teachers.

We are talking about peoples' lives. Period. To any administrator out there---how do you sleep? How do you look in the mirror?

I've just about had it with individuals who want to take slaps at teachers. I am hopeful that if you have young kids in the district, you will have the wherewithal to get out when unqualified individuals who aren't certified as teachers are in front of your students, repeating the Roosevelt mantra.


Questioner said...

We totally understand the concerns of teachers, and even the need to hide identities behind poor grammar, spelling, etc. But it makes it harder for us to host public blog when people call names, take pot shots, etc. To be most effective, please maintain a professional attitude.

Math Teacher said...

Very well said, Questioner 10:42!

I am a PPS math teacher. And when I post here, or anywhere else for that matter, I'll make the occasional spelling or typing error.

After all, no one can be perfect with everything!

But be assured: When I am teaching,my math instruction will be of the highest quality. My students deserve it and my professional pride requires it.

And that's just like 99% of my fellow teachers.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Questioner. All too often, the line of questioning appears to be baiting. All too often, parental comments seem to be along the same old line that says, "Well, there are so many teachers that ARE ineffective." I'll re-state what I have said many times: does any parent here care to spend a week or so walking a mile in any of our shoes? Step up. Of course, we'll have to coach you as to what your week will entail--both during the school day and afterward.

I didn't think so.

It's funny. You wish for respect and "professionalism" but seem to feel that finding a common ground, a "two sides to every story" approach, is appropriate.

A note to any administrator out there: instead of sitting of your dupa, concocting ways you can observe and eventually remove teachers from your building or, if you are central office administration, buildings in general...why don't you try to walk a mile in the shoes of your teaching staff? Start earning your taxpayer-fueled salaries. You have it easy. You take credit for classroom success. You provide the blame when things go south. And no parent has the gumption to call you out on it, it would appear.

Come on. Show you have some courage. Volunteer to spend a week in the classroom. Let's see if you can do it.

Whoops. I forgot. That's why you became an administrator in the first place---you couldn't cut it in the classroom.

Boy, there are sure a lot of gutless wonders in this scenario. Hope I spelled it properly for you.

solutionsRus said...

I understand the concerns of teachers that feel many in their profession are being unfairly targeted. And I understand the cynicism that accompanies any large overhaul proposed by this administration. We should, no it is our duty, to ask questions and hold the admin accountable.

Yet, our teacher hiring, tenure and dismissal practices in the district were broken and I agree that the administration needed to remedy this situation. Is the EET proposal going to fix the problem? I don't know. What I do know is that the PPS teaching staff has its fair share of mediocre to bad teachers (when my daughter was asked the number of teachers in her high school career that she would call good to excellent, she said 5. That's 5 out of 21 teachers she had in HS.)
Teachers, you all know the good ones and the bad ones out there and know that the bad ones are giving your profession a bad name. So all of the teachers that are blogging about teachers being targeted, tell us how to improve the EET proposal. That is what this blog is all about...you on the front lines giving us fact based information that can improve the plan (not specifics that would jeopardize your jobs, but general information about what is wrong with the plan). We, as parents, can then advocate for those changes.

Recently, I was told that the efforts of PURE Reform were destructive. This thread is exactly the reason why that perception is out there. I know that there is a lot of frustration out there, but please, name calling does nothing to further our fight for accountability and transparency in the PPS.

deegazette said...

If we wanted to empower a teacher doesn't it stand to reason one way is to provide the necessary supports like ELMOs and working computers? I doubt that the Gates grant or many of the other funding sources, even federal grants, allow for any deviation from the original proposals. Wouldn't it be great if money were availaable to put an additional teacher in a classroom deemed particularly challenging? Or to split a class at close to its maximum in half to see what the impact would be to grades from one quarter to the next? Wouldn't it be great if we could find the equivalent of the elementary teacher changing a kid's seat to help the whole class do better everyday?

As a parent I am also concerned that the Race to the Top competition is counterproductive. I am also thinking that the way Arne Duncan is directing the production of education takes away from building the innovation they claim to want to see.

Anonymous said...

solutions, you prove the theory of one's perception being one's reality. You comments are so far out in left field that it boggles the mind.
Hiring practices were out of whack? Administration need to fix it??? Utter insanity.
The fact that your daughter lists 5 out of 21 teachers as memorable is your pretext for the idea that there are a lot of ineffective teachers out there is mind boggling.
As for the charge of counter-productiveness, I guess it would depend on who is making the charge, no? Someone from the Roosevelt administration? A union board member? A parent?

Let's be "real". You have NO interests in hearing from anyone on the front lines, at least not about the realities that run contrary to the lunacy you spout. You would rather have a group of shiny, happy people chanting "We Are the World" and discussing how the teaching workforce can be improved. Tell you what, "solutions", you and your friends can afford to play nice and mince words. It's not your job that is on the line.

It's easy to play the blame game when you sit in an easy chair or in some administrative office somewhere and aren't under fire. I would expect such gutlessness to come from central administration. heck, it's part of the job description. I would have not expected any parent who supposedly cares to be in such denial.

For shame.

Anonymous2 said...

I actually wonder if this anonymous isn't someone in the administration trying to make teachers look bad. These posts are so over the top that I hope if this poster is really out there teaching they consider taking a break. It is a very difficult job and it's very difficult to keep doing it year after year when the demands change every year, but always ratchet up into more and more ridiculous realms.

And I say that as someone who does walk in both sets of shoes -- both a parent and a teacher.

deegazette said...

Anonymous 4:50 you may have merged comments from solutionsRus and from me, deegazette, in your response. Not a big deal but I am strong and want to take some of the heat too.

Here is my point about RttT and superintendents across the nation. Those in charge of school districts are merely dancing to the tune Arne Duncan is humming. If I see a general about face on charter schools in PPS land via the relaxing of standards I will know Duncan has been victorious. How big can his ego be? Sorry solutions, I had a cocktail a little while ago and hope that does not sound like name-calling. I have great admiration for those who are sitting out the competition for the RttT funds, however I know there is too much at stake in the form of kids to allow PPS to snub the district nose at the funds.

Anonymous said...

Anon2, I guess the natural question would be, where do you teach? Are you in the district? Are you in a comprehensive school? Do you see and her what is going on, or do you teach Sunday school somewhere, or at a specialty school?
The commentary is spot-on. Why shoot the messenger?

Anonymous2 said...

Yes district, not specialty at all. I'm as angry at the changes coming from the administration -- but I'm not angry at the parents. That's the difference.

As both a parent and teacher, I do not understand the screaming here at the parents. Educate them without the aggression -- save it for where it belongs. As teachers we'll never get to where we need to be if we don't have the support of parents, or at least of the involved parents.

Calling parents gutless, showing "lunacy" etc. etc. only makes them write *you* off as a bad or even dangerous teacher. Why would they want to learn from someone who hates them? It's just, well, stupid and it's also really bad teaching.

Anonymous said...

Because he is NOT a teacher. If he was, he'd know about the number of teachers with spotless records who have already been fired.(February 1st was an administrative deadline date) He'd know about the corp of teachers who had been identified at one north side school as needing to be on improvement plans and the group at one prestigious eastern high school who were also placed on the plan. He'd know of the constant classroom visitations to classrooms in one southern school by numerous central administration types and at least one retired principal who are attempting to rattle cages of teachers.
The list is endless, and the effort is pointless. When you read comments like anonymous 2, you realize the public relations machine has won the battle. And sir, you have walked a mile in no city teacher's shoes. Your comments only serve to embarrass yourself.
Most teachers know what is going on and only let individuals like YOU know via a message board.
dee, I agree with you about Duncan, but he is only part of the scenario. The 40 million from Gates with the 40 million that needs to augment the effort is all about teacher effectiveness. Firing teachers is a method by which MR's people can say to the Gates people, "See, we're looking for effectiveness only here."

Unfortunately, Gates doesn't know how many times principals have been told by central admin to "identify 8-10 teachers in need of improvement...or we will do it for you."

Sounds like Gates needs some informants here. That's not looking to improve learning and achievement, but rather, playing a shell game for sugar daddy's money.

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight, 2. Calling out apologists on a message board--which has nothing to do with classroom instruction--amounts to bad teaching?
That's slick logic.
Is Dick Cheney a hero of yours?

Questioner said...

It sounds like there are some real issues going on in terms of evaluation of teachers. Some have said that teachers who are older with higher pay grades are being targeted, while others have suggested that an apparently disproportionate focus on older teachers is the result of less flexibility among those teachers.

While teachers are reportedly complaining at union meetings, so far the complaints seem to have no effect. Still, unions have been around for a long time in many fields; there must be history and models members can look to re: how members prevented unions from being divided and conquered by employers. Hopefully the issue will not come down to a court deciding a discrimination action.

amymoore said...

Preaching to the choir is a waste of energy. So is fighting among ourselves on the PURE Reform blog. If you have taken the time to come to this site, you are probably concerned with education in this city. Unless you are a ringer for the administration, you probably are fighting for the same things whether you are a teacher or a parent. Let's quit wasting our energy fighting among ourselves and focus on the true problems.

All of us know there are some teachers who should never have gotten into the profession or who should have gotten out when they lost the will to fight the ongoing battles. For a teacher to deny that they exist weakens the argument. All of us know that parents either and/or social situations have an enormous effect on what goes on in the classroom. And unfortunately, most of us involved with PURE Reform and the current atmosphere in the PPS know that school board policies and the administration see them as adversaries and not advocates in improving education in the city.

We have to make do with what we've got. The media and the moneyhandlers love Mark Roosevelt. He is a politician and a businessman. He makes good press. He is not likely to be leaving in the near future. HOW CAN WE PREVENT HIM FROM DESTROYING THE PPS? So far, counteracting his feel-good media with facts and figures hasn't worked too well. When we fight among ourselves, it just reinforces his dismissal of us as a fringe group of malcontents.

To SolutionsRus, it is very sad that your daughter had so few teachers that she considered good. When I think back to my experience decades ago (I am a very old lady), I probably would have said the same. My S's experience has been quite different and I think that is why I keep fighting; I see what is happening at his school and greatly fear that his excellent teachers are ready to give up. They have been moved repeatedly, lied to about placements, and now are in limbo as to job security for next year. Why stick around?

Questioner said...

What substantial experience as a businessman does the superintendent have?

Anonymous said...

I heard about a classroom where the teacher and kids seem to have a kind of agreement. When the principal comes in they behave so the teacher looks good and when the principal leaves they don't behave but the teacher does not report them.

amymoore said...

I'm sorry that I missed the beginning posts of this thread until today or I would have chimed in earlier when the discussion touched on computers and technology. At the 2/25/2010 EFA (Excellence for All Steering Committee), we were given a presentation by Lawrence Bergie from the Office of Information & Technology. Contained in the presentation was a printout of the analysis of # of computers and enrollment at each of the schools in the district as of 1/11/2010. According to their figures, the ratio of students to student computer (does not include faculty computers) range from .8 at Sci-Tech, 1.4 at Westinghouse, to 5.8 at Sterrett and 9.5 at Colfax. I know, before someone jumps on me for giving out misleading info, that the numbers don't give the whole picture; I am just reporting what was on the printout. The discrepancy among schools was partially explained to be due to a. Title I funds b. rising or dropping enrollment and c. third party support.

Anonymous2 said...

It was said: Unfortunately, Gates doesn't know how many times principals have been told by central admin to "identify 8-10 teachers in need of improvement...or we will do it for you."

I heard (via someone at the board) that they were told to get close to 40% on improvement plans. Obviously when you set a percentage like that it takes nothing into account other than numbers.

My guess is that the idea behind that is that they can then fire half of that 40% and "effectively improve" the other half and then spend the next decade patting themselves on the back for how well they reformed the district...while the actual education kids are getting does NOT improve.

People who only know about the district from the PG will look at those rates (20% fired, 20% "improved") and think hmmm, that's about right. It's not about actual improvement, it's about how it looks and sounds.

Of course, it is totally backwards even according to their own logic, since their rationale is that you should be able to tell the worth of the teachers at a school by the scores at that school. That is, high scoring schools must have better teachers than lower scoring schools (ignoring all the realities of students, poverty, level of parents' education, special ed. rates, etc).

Now, we all know that there is more to it than that, but nuance doesn't make it into the papers. Are CAPA teachers more effective or do they benefit from having a hand-selected group of students? Are teachers at other schools less effective because they have a higher proportion of kids who have been kicked out of various schools in their classes?

To fight against this and protect the majority of teachers who are good and great, I still maintain that parents and teachers are going to have to team up and going to have to get more of the reality of the ridiculous pacing etc. out there.

(And yes, I'm purposely ignoring...)

Questioner said...

Do close to 40% of teachers at CAPA also need to be put on the improvement plan? And at Brashear that also won some kind of award? Or is this only at lower performing schools?

It is ridiculous that none of this is being reported except through comments on a message board.

Anonymous said...

Kudos, anon 1:06. That's a rational post addressing the potential pitfalls of the district's initiative.

whatnext said...

High expectations is a phrase tossed around often. Well my expectations get lower everyday and when Questioner asks why all the information flowing here is not being reported elsewhere all I can say is what should we expect when it is necessary to file under Right to Know law to see an audit report? If the news were good there would be press events. When the news is bad the strategy is to keep people waiting until memory fades or a newer bigger issue emerges or a smowstorm or potential flood grabs the headlines.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little confused, anon 2. This was all said previously and you made a stink earlier without reason. Many teachers who visit here have said the same things over and over and all we read in response amounts to lip service, as if it can't be that way.
Well, it is, and it's a shame that a few people who either had a few lousy teacher or had kids that had lousy teachers want to paint the teacher effectiveness with a broad brush that implies it was a long time coming.
This is vindictiveness, pure and simple.

Anonymous2 said...

You can be as confused as you want. I didn't and haven't changed my opinion, I just try to refrain from attacking parents.

Most doctors, lawyers, plumbers, etc. will admit that not everyone in their profession is stellar, I too state that there are some bad teachers.

But, I'd put the number far below 40% and likely below 10%. There are far more often teachers and students that are bad fits -- and in that situation as a parent, I figured it's my child's job to learn how to deal with it for the year. I think parents do confuse a teacher their child doesn't like with a bad teacher -- and that's almost always a mistake.

But, yelling at parents who read here? That's just bad thinking -- persuasive writing? passing along specific changes that need to be made? Those are positive. Alienating parents who care enough to be reading this blog? Not so smart.

another anon said...

I spent a lot of time lecturing my children on the subject of "making a good impression on the teacher" It has been my experience that once a teacher has an impression of a student(or a parent) it is very difficult to change it, so you want yours to be a positive impression. Grading, in most cases, has some degree of subjectivity. When my kids said that a poor grade was due to a bad teacher, I tried to determine whether it was bad teaching or a bad personality fit that was to blame. Bad teaching was a rarity, in my opinion, during the years my kids were in PPS.

Effective-is-Us said...

Obviously anon and anon2 teach in two different buildings. If you've sit and watched teams of administrators from your building and central office storm into rooms, you wouldn't be milquetoast about things.
And anon2, I don't see the screaming at parents you talk about, just one parent who had it wrong...very wrong.
Wake up and tell it like it is.

Anonymous said...


“Teachers alone cannot turn around struggling schools, and the administration’s plans put 100 percent of the responsibility on teachers,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.3 million members.

solutionsRus said...

you can all put your head in the sand if you want, but I have witnessed first hand that the number of mediocre to poor teachers in the PPS is far greater than the 10% estimates claimed in this thread...probably higher than 50%. The insinuation that my daughter would claim that teachers she had were ineffective because she didn't like them is simply not true. Why would colleges ask students to rate professors if the results were simply a personality contest.

The other irrational thought that runs through these posts is that everyone is blaming everything on teachers. And saying it over and over doesn't make it true. Teaching is just one part of the picture when it comes to educating our students.

That being said, there is plenty wrong with the Effective Teachers plan proposed by the district and if it is unfairly targeting teachers, then we need to know about it and advocate for these teachers.

Anonymous said...

I have been observing this for some time now and I think the blame game is very cyclical. Parents then teachers then administration and over again and again. I think part of the problem is that teachers are looking around and see what is happening in other cities. Could the "improvement time" for a mediocre teacher be swallowed up by the worry?

Anonymous said...

Short answer: the worry you speak of comes from hell-bent administrators who have been told to target teachers. The quote keeps coming back to us, as related by the few principals who still are uneasy about all of this: you find 8 teachers (or 10, etc) to focus on, or we'll find them for you.

Worry about what is happening in other cities. Hardly. There's trouble right here in river city. In this push to show the Gates people that the district is pushing for effectiveness, it instead has launched a crusade that falsely places the tag of "ineffective" on any teacher for reasons such as straying off of curriculum.
How tragic.

questonymous said...

Question anonymous, does the "find 8" apply to all buildings or to all the RISE pilot buildings?

solutionsRus said...

I would like to amend my position on the EET plan. While I still hold that some changes in hiring etc. are needed, and I hold that in my experience, there are teachers in the PPS that need improvement, I believe that the way that reforms are being implemented is creating a demoralizing climate and shows a complete lack of understanding by the administration of the issues around teaching at risk students. The theory of "effective" teachers being the magic bullet is misguided to say the least. The very first thing that should be done with the Gates money is to add an extra adult (aid) into each classroom, add secretarial support, increase social workers and guidance counselors to support teachers with students with behavioral issues...then let's see who needs improvement. My bet is that many teachers will find these supports the "magic bullet" that will help them be the great teachers that they set out to be.

Questioner said...

Maybe this should be proposed to the Gates Foundation. Instead of putting all their hopes into one program- at one or two location the plan described above could be tried.

questonymous said...

solutions, I think about now every teacher in the district would like to apply for the position of your best friend. I expect the Gates money usage is so very defined any deviation is prohibited. Most likely, the plan presented in order to obtain the award was written with what we are living through now. It amazes me though that no board member thinks like you or if they do, they do not speak about it.

Old Timer said...

questonymous, I think most comprehensive schools have been given a quota, to be sure, although I'm not sure it's 8 at one school or 10 at another. I hear about what is happening at numerous schools with young principals---PELA or otherwise--and am shocked. I know personally of the stories of many dedicated teachers who now fear for their jobs. Many of these are student favorites.
Young principals have bought into what central administration is selling, on their feet or on their knees.
I look at the teams of vindictive observation teams entering buildings. These are fresh faced individuals who look as though they spent relatively little time in the classroom and I am struck by the thought that each piece we read as to teacher effectiveness these days discusses the ideas of building rapport with kids. It strikes me that on one hand, these fresh faces never built any type of rapport in any classroom and likely washed out and on the other, have devised curriculum that fails to take into account the human factor, no matter the department.
And in true ownership fashion, deviating from curriculum=grounds for focusing=grounds for dismissal. And whether a teacher or parent, that simply lacks sense.THIS is the barometer for teacher effectiveness?

Then, I look at the number of resignations that were made public via the board minutes for February, and I wonder even more.
I recognize many of the names and wonder what straits dictated their decisions.

solutions, we can agree to disagree. I'd state that your figures of teachers are off, but you are to be saluted for this most recent, logical post. The problem is that Gates blames teachers as the number 1 problem, first and foremost. I think you are cognizant of what the points are here. It should be added that many, many schools have had their budgets cut for the coming school year. Paraprofessionals especially are going to take the hit here.

It's a sad time in the district and dedicated staff are paying the price. Ask around.

Old Timer said...

A better solution would be to bring central administration into the classrooms. Let's see the assistant superintendent in charge of curriculum running a mainstream class over at Oliver for a week. How about the supervisor of math working with a teacher over at Peabody? The secondary english supervisor working with her curriculum over at Westinghouse and the elementary reading supervisor taking on a role over at Weil. Then next month, let's rotate these people around.
Let's see what effectiveness is all about. Let's have the PELA supervisor spend a month at ML King.
Teachers will learn so much and have a new respect for these individuals who so far have shown themselves to be of little guts.
The science supervisor can set up shop at UPrep and the Humanities guru can go into Carrick.

I love this plan.

Come on administration, show us you have some courage. Put your money where your mouths are. Show us the improvement strategies and effectiveness you preach about.
If effectiveness is gauged by simply sticking to your curriculum, then everyone from your assistant superintendent to supervisors of departments should be able to enlighten everyone from teachers to parents. And again, bring your PELA leader out, too.

After all, you are not in the classroom, but are getting paid via taxpayer money. You OWE the taxpayer that much.

Anonymous2 said...

Ahhh old timer -- that's one of my fondest dreams -- having someone from the upper ranks of math administration use Connected Math at a middle school with high poverty, low scores and see what a mismatch it is for the needs of those students.

If they ever even got to the curriculum.

Old Timer said...

anon2, as you know, what you describe is evident in every department's curriculum. It fails the kids, period.
Yes, it's nice to dream.

Anonymous said...

"I hear about what is happening at numerous schools with young principals---PELA or otherwise--and am shocked"

Old timer, give us specifics. if you don't feel comfortable posting, contact someone that is advocating for real reform. We need to know what is really going on.

Old Timer said...

Not sure that I follow you, anon. How would naming the names of teachers who have been focused or fired help those teachers? I'm near retirement age, and it's certainly not an instance of being wary of retribution but more in line with trying to be sympathetic to those who are in tough straits. I can report this as an aside to solutionsRus' earlier post: none of the teachers I know that are being focused or who have been forced to resign ever had negative comments against them before. I can tell you that these continuous observations are happening at every level and at every school but most pointedly at comprehensive high schools which did not make AYP. If you are in proximity to one of these schools, have kids that go there, etc., ask about the "visitors" showing up in certain teachers' classrooms 3 or 4 times a week.
Again, if there is a PELA principal or PELA resident there, even PELA leadership is showing up to add two cents. And there's something wrong with that.
There are natural questions, of course. Where is the union in all of this?
There is no union. The March 4 teacher effectiveness program viewed by all teachers in this district made it clear: these are different times and the necessarily adversarial relationship between union leadership and administration has been replaced by a warm, kissy-huggy approach that states, "Go ahead and pick apart our membership. Some will go, most assuredly, but hey, some will reap the dividends of merit pay."
You read in the paper the positive comments of a few psychologically impaired teachers who embraced what they saw. That's beyond yellow journalism. I know of no teacher who is peeing their pants in anticipation of the teacher effectiveness plan. Then again, I know of no teacher simply in it for the money.

Again, here is what is distressing: sending in teams of central office administration to visit classrooms and make pronouncements on who is effective and who isn't. Where do they get their definitions? How do they know? While it may sound like sour grapes, most PELA and central office supervisory types washed out as teachers. There are few secrets among our ranks and people remember. They had no control. They were not effective in reaching students and inspiring them to achieve. They couldn't handle the daily rigor of preparedness.

And now they hold all the cards? Making judgments about who is effective and who needs to go?

This emanates from an assistant superintendent whose ideas I will only call disturbing. That her views are allowed to be enacted in this district...that she has been embraced as an expert...truly boggles the mind.

You know, we all understand that the current superintendent is a CEO more than an educator and the district is more a corporation than an instrument meant to empower students for better futures. Many of us understand corporate structure and many of us would not mind having constructive critique and feedback from successful educators or at least, experienced educators who know the territory of teaching. The district does have individuals in places of authority like Linda Lane and Derek Lopez who fit that bill. But their views are not being given the credence that they should have. Their understanding of classroom instruction is pushed to the rear. And inexperienced individuals in charge of departments who have grown smug with their illegitimate authority make the call about effectiveness--usually based on whether a teacher is going line-by-line in the canned curriculum.

This is deciding teacher effectiveness.

I like the plan I put forth last night--I really do. But since administration is truly scared of standing in front of kids, I doubt it will be given much credence. So, I am hopeful that I can witness a new administration that comes aboard, cleans house, and ships all of these "supervisory" or "administrative" types back into the classroom.

THAT is a sweet dream, too.

Anonymous said...

Old Timer, I don't mean specific names. I mean things like:

In one high school, 5 veteran teachers with no parent, student or administrative complaint is being slated for "improvement".

In one elementary school, 3 teachers on the highest pay scale with pristine records are being slated for "improvement".

If all of the teachers on this blog gave us more real information instead of generalities (again, no names, etc.), we could advocate better. Or better yet, get some of the targeted teachers to contact some one from PURE. All would be anonymous, but we would have real info to work with.

anon33 said...

In our PSCC meetings it is not unusual for a principal to give parents an update on progress being made toward a final empowering effective teachers plan. I would expect an update on RISE because my school is a pilot school. It could be helpful for at least school names to be used when situations are described or if staff could contact the EFA parent representative for their building so that in meetings a parent can publicly ask questions.

Anonymous said...

Just a thought and a suggestion for teachers. If you have never kept a journal before, now would be a good time to start. Record every scheduled and surprise visit from anyone in a position above you, not just those who are designated as evaluators. Then record anything you might have said in opposition to a program or a curriculum directive. Parents, a suggestion for you, aim your kids toward law school and a specialty in labor law. It is possible PPS will remedy the local glut in the local legal profession.

Old Timer said...

I want to thank all of those who have posted after me for their suggestions and thoughts. There are a lot of great ideas, as well.
I would hope that those who are on the contractnews list blog that also frequent this site would take the suggestion about alerting targeted teachers about the good people aligned with PURE reform.

I am not a part of contractnews, a blog that consists of caring teachers who like me got into education to help children achieve academically. Like me, they are amazed at what is currently transpiring in PPS. Unlike me, they still believe that solidarity can change the union leadership's methods and thereby, make a stand against administration. Me? I think that the union died years ago.

I would also hope that journals are kept with regards to visits, as well, and the idea about labor lawyers makes complete sense and I am hoping that one of the targeted teachers has enough gumption to level harassment, unfair practices, wrongful dismissal, et al, at some point in the future.
Isn't it amazing that the union is offering targeted individuals absolutely zero help in this matter.

I understand the comments about naming names and schools. Sorry, but I just don't want to put added pressure on people working in schools with attack dog principals. I personally know of numerous individuals currently being targeted. I personally know of at least one individual forced to resign, although I hear there have been many others. I know that a union rep at one school has been focused because she "looked nervous" when she was being observed. I know of another woman who is being targeted who has been a solid teacher for almost two decades. She lost her husband suddenly last year and has one extremely difficult class in an extremely difficult school. Amazingly, that class is where administrators keep going to. I know of three teachers near retirement who were suddenly and mysteriously targeted earlier this year without explanation other than concerns about "curriculum integrity." And there are more.

Folks, most good teachers realize that ineffective teachers should not be in front of kids. Funny, but in our district, ineffective teachers become supervisors. Yet, in its rush to grab 40 million, the district has pushed forth a plan to "improve" and in some cases "remove" ineffective teachers who have been deemed such in ways not pertinent to how a child learns.

These are the times. I can't speak for anyone else, but I see parents as the only hope in all of this mess. As someone said before, we are talking about peoples' lives here.

Old Timer said...

I guess I should also mention that I picked up this information at the last union meeting earlier this month. It was well attended by teachers and the PFT....did nothing. In fact, Tarka stated that even if given a mandate by his rank and file that this plan was a no-go--where it is voted down--he would still pursue similar scenarios to maintain the district getting the $40M.

Something is rotten here. When you sit there and listen to endless stories and there is no empathy from supposed colleagues, you have to wonder.

Old Timer said...

Today's article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette regarding the RISE program that evaluates teachers is yet another nail in the coffin for teachers in their battle against a horrible administration. In the court of public opinion, the Roosevelt folks continue to have the stranglehold on news, even if there is a new beat reporter for all things PPS (it would appear that Joe Smydo has left for greener pastures).
First off, RISE is not the evaluative process which we have been discussing in this thread.
Secondly, what most people don't know is that these articles are staged. The PFT called a number of teachers this spring to have them act as PR reps of teacher effectiveness and RISE. Yes, the PFT. Whose side does the PFT represent, anyway?
Some of these people appear in the article, most notably, John Tarka's daughter.
This is an amazing time. It all reminds me of a totalitarian regime. Even public opinion is controlled.

Anonymous said...

Yup, their ability to basically write the news is pretty amazing. When people finally look around and see what's left of what used to be strong programs and great teachers, they're going to be so surprised. It was never mentioned in the papers...they only heard how great things were.

questonymous said...

Old Timer and others, the only evaluation process I have heard of is RISE. We parents have been told one of the advantages PPS had in the Gates competition was that our evaulation proess was already in development. We are skeptical and ask questions about the fairness factors (objectivity, relationship history, etc) and now I am guessing we will grow more wary. The problem is there are still many "with-it" parents ignoring what they see happening because they can't be concerned beyond the experiences of their own kid. Many of the parent posters here are the exceptions it seems, they want it to be "right" even after they have no kids left in school.

Questioner said...

Here is a link to the article about "RISE."


One idea might be to look to what evaluation and training system other successful schools are using. Also, what works in a classroom of students who are already achieving at high levels might be different from what works in a classroom of students who have not done well in the past.

Old Timer said...

I have said before and will say again that PURE Reform folks understand the logic behind the Roosevelt administration quite well, as it was the closing of the Schenley building exemplifies the tactics quite well. You know the thinking:

-Let a few people moan and complain. Since one's perceptions are most definitely one's reality, you will never have the groundswell of complaint across the city that would really put administration on its heels. That is, Schenley parents and grads will complain and make a stink, but it will fade. Control the media and weather the storm and in short order, it will be forgotten. We will have done as we pleased and move on.
What David Shribman, Andy Sheehan and other news leaders continue to forget is that while this thinking works quite well in corporate America, it is taxpayer dollars that fund the district. This group of individuals should be held accountable for their actions but alas, board members are re-elected and quite frankly, laugh long and hard about all of it.

A poster states that all that parents have been apprised of has been the RISE evaluation system. In truthfulness, an old veterans like me see RISE as an amalgamation of PRISM and EPAS all over again and to be truthful with you, worry over principals is a mixed bag depending on who you are. If you have one of the few older or level headed principals left who have not been shown/shoved through the door, then it is like any other observation.

Most of us however have a sincere problem with learning walks as stated above in this thread, done by sneering administrators--and no, I am not employing semantics here--who wouldn't know an effective teacher if one were to leap and bite them in the behind. These are the teams of individuals who descend upon a school, watch a class for a few minutes, determine if a teacher is where they should be in the canned curriculum which they themselves have largely concocted, and then alert principals about teachers who aren't where they should be and are hence, "ineffective". The principal then is obligated to return ad infinitum to that teacher's class to see for himself and quite naturally place the teacher on an "improvement plan", which is akin to being placed on the road to termination.

Yes, I have a real problem with individuals who have done little time in front of kids that have the large say in what is and what is not effective teaching. All too often, these individuals take teachers being off of the curriculum a bit as being a slap in the face. If it weren't so tragic, you'd have to laugh at this. Are Gates people really this stupid as to not inquire? And again, are targeted teachers really so stupid as not to have contacted labor attorneys?

What galls me about this type of propaganda piece is that I would not have expected it in "One of America's Great Newspapers" a few years ago. Now, it's the type of propaganda which is borne out of a phone call from PPS and/or the PFT (imagine that) and meant to sway public perception about what a great day it is in Pittsburgh Public Schools. If you are a parent, ask your high school kids what they are learning in History/Social Studies. Ask what they are learning in Science and are able to retain. Ask how they are acquiring deeper meaning from literature through two questions asked repeatedly throughout the year, "what is the gist?...what are significant moments?"
Simply put, curriculum writers are failing the students and making teachers pay for filling in the chasm between the schlock they are supposed to teach and a student's inquisitive nature or post secondary needs.

In the end, I'd agree that PURE Reform parents have an inkling as to what is going on. They got their first glimpse a few years ago. But just as assuredly, I would agree that the apathy of parents outside of those here is what empowers an administration bent on conducting affairs as a corporation and squelching all inner dissent.

Anonymous said...

The only thing that will stop this "train wreck", is a lawsuit. The BOE counts on parents, teachers, etc. to just "go away" after awhile. They continually get away with whatever they what to do because time is on their side. No one challenges them. (in the courts) The PFT is in bed with them so they know they can continue to do whatever they dream up next.

I'm sorry to say, "Give it up people. It's a done deal. Complain all you want - to no avail. You are wasting your breath."

Anonymous said...

What was the big mandatory coaches meeting with Derrick Lopez all about? Are we going to have an "effective coaches plan" too?

Questioner said...

Mark Rauterkus has a post on his blog about the effective coaches meeting.

It sounds like the Title IX report was mentioned, but it is not clear if any of the coaches asked why they could not see this long overdue report unless they put in a written request and wait another 30+ days.

Anonymous said...

Most of the coaches are men. They probably have no interest in what the report says let alone file to get a copy.

snarkonymous said...

Snort. Yes, I'm sure it's not that they're busy or that they know that whatever the report says it won't change how things are run.

They're likely not related to women and have no wives or daughters, either.

parentof2 said...

Anon 7:48
Maybe a little uncalled for? With comments like that we all lose credibility?

Anonymous said...

They're busy alright - coaching 2 or 3 sports and not doing justice timewise to all. Read Mark's report on his blog about the meeting.

Old Timer said...

You'll have to pardon me but I am glad that Mark has chosen to keep his coaching comments on his own blog and to not hijack a thread devoted to a much more important issue.